Heart's pre-season heads North

Melbourne Heart arrived in Lismore in northern New South Wales on Sunday for a week-long pre-season camp.

Melbourne Heart embarked on its pre-season camp to northern New South Wales on Sunday, arriving in Lismore as it gears up to meet newly-established A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night.

Lismore, the birth-place of Socceroo icon Craig Foster, presents the perfect backdrop for John Aloisi's side to bond, engage with the city's passionate football community and prepare for its second hit-out against an A-League rival this pre-season.

On the back of its match against Adelaide United last Tuesday, Heart will contest the Craig Foster Cup against the Wanderers, which is the West Sydney club-s first taste A-League opposition as both clubs fine tune their preparations for the impending season.

Foster, 43, who earned 29 caps for Australia, and scored nine goals for his country, was born in Lismore in 1969 and has praised Heart-s initiative to engage with the football community in northern New South Wales.

The clash also acts as a match-up between former Socceroo teammates Tony Popovic, who is at the helm of the Wanderers, and Aloisi.

Aloisi has travelled with a squad of 19, minus midfielder Jonatan Germano who is recovering from injury, and four trialists.

Heart-s Football Operations General Manager John Didulica said the focus of the week was not solely on Friday night-s match, but would facilitate team bonding, allow players to mix with the football community and focus on off-season technical priorities.

“Of course we-re looking forward to a high-level game against Western Sydney on Friday, but it-s a chance to work with the players and to help them gel and concentrate away from the day-to-day distractions,” Didulica said.

“We haven-t spoken too much about the game yet; it-s more about spending time with each other and it-s always good to get away and bond.

“On a camp we-re able to pack more sessions in and allow players to get adequate rest and recovery.

“There are other key aspects of the tour, including community engagement in an area that has a high percentage of registered players.”

Didulica said Friday-s match-up would be a historic moment as the A-League-s two expansion clubs meet for the first time and vie for the Craig Foster Cup.

“Its exciting; it-s a bit historic and the first game against an expansion side from Sydney,” Didulica said.

“It-s important to recognise a legend of the game; he [Foster] is a great champion of football and especially football in the community.”